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Left Handed Conductors


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#1 JudithJ

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Posted 23 August 2007 - 16:35

I am left handed, and have done a little bit of conducting as a small element of some courses that I have attended.

Some teachers are happy for me to conduct the natural way for me, and some require me to be conventional (ie. right hand pulse, left dynamics etc). I find this awkward, and can't think of any particularly good reason for left handed people conducting the right handed way.

Does anyone know any famous left handed conductors who conduct the left handed way?
Does anyone know a good reason for conducting the right handed way if you are not right handed?

At some stage I need to make a decision about which way to conduct and then stick to it. Any advice that you can give would be appreciated.
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#2 Guest: petrat_*

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Posted 23 August 2007 - 17:23

A very interesting topic Judith. The olly professional conductor that I know was left handed used to conduct with the baton in his right hand. Incidentally, all of the best musicians that I have known have been southpaws.
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#3 SaxFan

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Posted 23 August 2007 - 18:55

when I was on a conducting course, I feel sure there was someone there who was left-handed (it was a while ago) and I certain the tutor was happy about that and didn't try to persuade him to change.

I should think that maybe the only drawback would be if the orchestra or choir felt uneasy, not that I can see why they should.
If your intentions are clear, should be fine.
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#4 x_lenia_x

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Posted 23 August 2007 - 21:37

we had a guest conductor at our youth concert band once, rob wiffin. he was left-handed but as he was in the army, they made him conduct right-handedly cause it's so strict and whatever.

he was a) amazing and b) very lucky, as he could conduct with his right hand (as is conventional) but take notes with his left-hand at the same time...
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#5 briantrumpet

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Posted 23 August 2007 - 23:07

I'm left-handed, and conduct left-handed. I regularly conduct several youth groups, and conduct full orchestras. I have also played under a good LH conductor. I think that both our conducting styles are clear enough as to what each hand is doing ... I consciously try to avoid constantly beating time with both hands (a real no-no, as far as I'm concerned, with any conductor, whatever handedness they are), and I've never had a complaint from a player (grown-up or youth), despite my not using a baton. The 'you must conduct with the right hand' conspiracy is merely an extension of the mentality that led to children of my grandmother's generation being punished if they dared to write with their left hand, IMHO. I'd probably be caned senseless if I tried this line in the Forces.

Incidentally, is it Martin Brabbins that has given up using a baton (or 'baguette', as they say in France)? I hate the things (both as conductor and orchestral player), and wonder why they persist. I am strongly of the opinion that I can express much more of what I want with a batonless conducting hand, so it was nice to hear that MB (if 'twas he) is of the same opinion. My feeling is that the baton is often merely an empty symbol of authority, rather than a tool of expression. Authority will given to you willingly if you have a musical vision, can communicate it effectively, and give a clear beat with effective technique, stick or no stick. Discuss.

Brian
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#6 AmandaL

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Posted 24 August 2007 - 10:23

QUOTE(briantrumpet @ Aug 24 2007, 12:07 AM) View Post
Incidentally, is it Martin Brabbins that has given up using a baton (or 'baguette', as they say in France)? I hate the things (both as conductor and orchestral player), and wonder why they persist. I am strongly of the opinion that I can express much more of what I want with a batonless conducting hand, so it was nice to hear that MB (if 'twas he) is of the same opinion. My feeling is that the baton is often merely an empty symbol of authority, rather than a tool of expression. Authority will given to you willingly if you have a musical vision, can communicate it effectively, and give a clear beat with effective technique, stick or no stick. Discuss
Yes, I would agree that a baton is not a necessary tool for a conductor. Communicating the musical expression with clear hand or arm movments is actually preferable, providing it doesn't end up ressembling an out of control windmill caught in a hurricane. The latter can become distracting, if not downright annoying to both the orchestra and audience. Over-exaggerated movements - conductor moving his/her body backwards/forwards/sideways all of the time - are not required and eventually get in the way of the performance. Delivering a clear beat is the most important facet, with the odd cue for those coming in after many bars rest.

Many conductors who do use batons still don't indicate a clear beat however and indeed some of them display so little movement, that members of the string sections sat at the back have trouble seeing what the conductor is doing!

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#7 pianodub

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Posted 24 August 2007 - 12:19

I'm not famous but I'm a left-handed choral conductor! Similarly, I have found once you are clear in your beat and don't indulge in extra 'clicks' in your beating there should be no problem for anyone to follow you. The only person who ever mentioned it to me was a total pedant and was just trying to be a pain in the face. (It worked!)

To anyone who suggests that you conduct right-handed, I say make them use a left handed scissors or conduct left-handed and see how far they get! It's far trickier than people realise.
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